Soft-shell Crab — Spider Roll

“At some point in the life of every young crab, there comes a time to break out of one’s shell.”

Today I would like to introduce my little friend here.

This little blue crab is normally pretty shy because some people are unnerved by the sight of him. Every once in a great while however, he comes out of his shell — literally.

When a crab molts his shell, it’s great news for us…not so great news for him. They are touted as what I would a call a hassle-free crab; the entire crab is edible. You can find them fresh at some fish markets between April and September, but they are also available frozen year round. Frozen ones require less preparation, because with the fresh ones, well … (hmm how can I sugar coat this?) … you have to cut off their face and remove some gunk. Preparing crustaceans is generally not a pretty sight — not for the faint of heart. My sugar-coating prowess aside, I don’t imagine these would taste great coated in sugar. However, they are quite delicious when coated in tempura batter and deep-fried.

Yep, whole. Just like this: battered and fried twice.

This little guy often finds his way into sushi rolls, which may seem like a proportional conundrum, but it is actually not that complicated. You just have to break him up into smaller pieces so that he can fit into a maki with his claws still intact, which will add a cool dramatic effect to the final product. This type of sushi is called a futomaki, literally meaning “fat roll”. These are the larger types of maki, usually listed as “special maki” at sushi bars, and are more expensive than the smaller hosomaki.

You can remove some of the smaller legs as they don’t have very much meat and may inhibit eveness in rolling.

I like to add avocado and spicy mayo to this maki roll, which is like the version found at most sushi bars. This maki is typically called a spider roll because well, although a little bit creepy, you can’t really deny the resemblance

I have also seen these simply called soft shell crab rolls, but they usually don’t have the spider look to them.  Cut into 10 pieces, the crunchy and tender spider roll is then topped with eel sauce. This is a popular sushi condiment made to pair with eel, but may be paired with deep-fried maki or maki with a deep-fried element. Eel sauce is a thick, sweetened, soy sauce and is vegetarian friendly. At the sushi bar we occasionally get questions about eel sauce by people who are concerned by the name; but no it does not contain any actual essence of eel.

I wanted to share this ingredient and maki with you because it can definitely be intimidating when you don’t know what a soft shell crab is or why some pieces of the spider roll have claws protruding out. Unlike the tails sticking out of shrimp tempura rolls, not only are the claws edible, they are the most delicious part. So next time you are at a sushi bar, give a spider roll a try. This type of maki roll is actually one of the “safer” options for sushi newbies and they taste amazing. So there is only one thing left to ponder… what ever happened to his other legs?

The world may never know…

Until next time…

May the fish (and crab) be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)


The Mackerel Zavelli Roll

“This post is a little bit “hajimemashite”, and a little bit “arigatou gozaimasu”, if you know what I mean. If not, well it’s nice to meet you and thanks for coming anyway.”

I just want to take this moment to thank you for visiting my blog. I have put a lot of work into this, and have struggled along the way. Almost two years coming, and I am finally ready to proudly present Maki Zavelli to my friends, family, and the world! I would also like to give special thanks to those who have helped and supported me on this journey. David and Nicky, I couldn’t have done this without you, and you are both truly appreciated. Abraham, you have been extremely supportive, and your kind, encouraging words keep me going. To everyone else who are genuinely interested and excited about this venture of mine, thank you as well. Now with that out of the way, on to the food!

For my first official food post, I set off to compose a dish that would represent who I am in a maki roll. So today I am presenting the Mackerel Zavelli roll. Go ahead and take a moment to enjoy the excessive amount of whimsical wordplay…

The Mackerel Zavelli roll: mackerel,sweet potato, avocado, tamago, spicy mayo, with mackerel on top

My all-time favorite sushi item that can be commonly found in any U.S. sushi bar is shimesaba mackerel. This fish is not served raw due to bacterial concerns. Instead it is salt-cured and marinated or pickled. Most generic sushi bars use pre-packaged cured, marinated mackerel imported from Japan. Sushi connoisseurs use saba as a way to assess the skill of the itamae (sushi chef). More reputable sushi establishments prepare their own mackerel and often offer several varieties where different seasonings have been used in the curing and marinading process. Since I am still a very green itamae, my curing prowess is still under development. I just used the pre-packaged variety for this roll.

Mackerel is cut different for sushi than it is for sashimi, and typically the sashimi cuts are also used for maki.

To achieve the mackerel topping for this roll, I kept the majority of it whole and trimmed some of the meat off the bottom so it would lay flatter on top of the the uramaki.

I filled this inside-out roll with some of my favorite ingredients: avocado, spicy mayo, sweet potato, and dashi maki tamago (rolled egg omelette). I also included the portion of the mackerel that I trimmed. Spicy mayonnaise is a simple condiment to make; its really just hot sauce and mayo. The delectably sweet dashi maki tamago, or just tamago for short, is more complicated to make. I will add a tutorial for this at a later date. If you’ve never had it, tamago is just like a sweet, layered version of an egg omelette.

With the briny, salty, tang of the mackerel, this roll packs a big flavor punch. It doesn’t need any soy sauce.

Multiple flavors and textures make this version of me on a plate quite delectable. I also find the design and coloration of the mackerel to be stunningly beautiful, and even more beautiful on my taste buds.

Dozo yoroshiku, Mackerel Zavelli Roll!

Until next time,

May the fish be with you, young rainbow trout!

~Maki Zavelli, over and out <(^_^<)

(My apologies for the random romanized Japanese if you don’t know any.)

Welcome to my world!

“Sushi = Happiness”

This is the makizavellian philosophy; where joy can be found in a spicy tuna roll; bliss can be achieved between fresh yellowtail and subtley sweet sushi rice; and harmony can be reached for and attained … with chopsticks. Come, explore my world. You will discover all this and more when you dive beneath the surface and discover the incredible depths of flavor that await you. Intrigued? Dive a little further…

Find your center.

Find your…inner piece.

So who am I, you may ask?

Well, I have many layers…

…like an artichoke

I am an open passport…

…fearless to go anywhere in search of deliciousity.

I am a sharp sashimi knife…

…on the cutting-edge of the culinary world.

I am a braised pork summer roll with Thai basil pesto…

…various cultures rolled into one — daring to be different …
…and daring to be dunked ^_^;;

I am a rainbow trout…

…a colorful character supporting sustainability and a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

I am an avocado…


I am chef Adam P Zavell…

aka Maki Zavelli, the seafood philosopher

And thanks to this little blog here, I am also a food stylist, photographer, and writer. (Or simply, a food blogger.)

I explore the world around us searching for inspiration through food. I channel these journies into my own brand of sushi-centric Asian fusion cuisine. I often swim off into uncharted waters as well. Don’t be afraid to swim along with me on this quest! My wish is to share the makizavellian philosophy with the world through this blog, and hopefully you can swim away with your own little piece of inspiration.

If you want to learn how to make sushi at home, this is the place for you. The pages of Makiology are before you to explore.


~Maki Zavelli